Idle Hands say landlord has exploited a 'loophole' - landlord says tenant failed to meet 'obligations'

For the past eighteen months, owners of Idle Hands Coffee, Dave Wolinski and his partner Lucy Phillips, have been planning and working towards the next stage of their business. 

The coffee specialists had been making a name for themselves from a temporary site on Piccadilly Station Approach, but since that twelve month lease was due to expire in April, they’ve been putting all their energy into plans for a more permanent coffee shop in the Northern Quarter.

In April 2016, the pair confirmed they had agreed terms for a premises in Cheetwood House on the corner of Newton Street and Dale Street, and have been scrimping and saving as well as borrowing thousands of pounds ever since, to spend on fittings, applications and legal costs.

However, according to an emotional message posted on their website and via Twitter on Monday, plans suddenly hit the buffers when, on the cusp of moving in, the landlord exploited a 'loophole' and terminated their lease.

They wrote: 'Last Monday, 3rd July, we were due to start slowly moving in to our new unit. For anyone that has followed our story you probably already know that we’ve been waiting for this day for about 15 months.'

'The day before that visit is when everything started to unravel, when we received an email from the construction company telling us they’d been instructed to cancel the visit and we should contact our solicitors.'

Idle Hands Newton Street Cheetwood House
Idle Hands were supposed to open in Cheetwood House this month
Idle Hands Coffee Plans
Planning documents lodged with the council show Idle Hands on the corner of Newton Street and Dale Street

According to Idle Hands, they had been working 'really closely' with the building's owners - Newton Street Limited (owned by Beech Holdings) - who also manage the construction company which has carried out the works. However, according to the coffee specialists, the landlord 'decided he wanted it for use it for amenities for the flats being built above.'

The post goes on to say that they suspect the landlord will open something similar. '...we've helped design the unit as it stands. They have all our plans for the shops. I already know if anything opens even slightly similar it will be absolutely heartbreaking. Unfortunately for us, it appears legally, they can just leave us out on the street.'

Meanwhile, Dave and his partner Lucy – who is due to give birth in three months – have been left in debt and without a functioning business premises.

20171107 Idle Hands 2
Idle Hands made a name for themselves from a temporary site in Piccadilly

After receiving an overwhelmingly positive response on social media to their original post, Idle Hands posted a second update thanking people for their support.

'We felt we should post something else about this before the day is out,' writes Dave. 'Our initial post was always about two things - firstly letting everyone know our situation as way of an apology. We’ve been trying to open our shop for so long, we were embarrassed about what we saw as yet another failure. So hearing everyone's lovely comments means the world. Thank you. And secondly, we were hoping there would be someone out there who could maybe help, by way of premises, contacts or general advice.'

Since their post, Manchester's food and drink community has rallied around the stricken pair, setting up a crowdfunding page which has already raised £3,395 of the £4,000 target. The page reads:

'I know the total won't be much in comparison to the loans and debts of starting up a business, but anything to help them out will be amazing. They've worked so hard as part of our community of indie businesses in Manchester and it's up to us to take care of each other sometimes.'

Idle Hands Crowdfund
A crowdfunding page has so far raised over £3k

However, when Confidential approached Newton Street Limited, they insisted that the termination of the list was due to the Idle Hands failing to meet 'several of their tenant obligations'. In a statement the landlord said:

'I hope this helps provide a more balanced view of the story as much of what we've read online is incorrect.

'This development is a number of months off building completion yet and it is certainly not at any fit-out stage or close to being handed over to any tenant to start fit-out works.

'There has been some delay with the build and, unfortunately, much of this is due to Idle Hands failing to meet several of their tenant obligations. This in turn has led to delays in planning proceedings and building works. We have not sought to get reimbursement for these delays or billed Idle Hands for any costs, which we were within our rights to do.

'We have decided that we just cannot continue our relationship with Idle Hands and have made the decision to cut our losses. As soon as we made that decision, we notified Idle Hands immediately. As a gesture of goodwill, we also offered to cover any costs that Idle Hands had incurred to date and assist them with finding new premises.'

In the meantime, Idle Hands say they 'will throw everything we’ve got at trying to make sure Idle Hands continues in some capacity... if any of you know of any empty properties in need of an Idle Hands, don't be shy about it...' 

If you are able to offer this independent and self-funded coffee shop any advice, then contact Dave